Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Global White Lion Protection Trust, Timbavati.

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Road tripping time...
I,together with a group of media "representatives"
went off on the road north to the Timbavati area.
We had been invited to visit The Global White Lion Protection Trust
at their Unicorn Camp.
Not a destination for the general public though,
but usually reserved for either media or scientific groups.

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We stopped at this venue along the N4,
and aside from offering a variety of food outlets and curio shops,
it surprised us with a "sighting" of two of the "Big 5"

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Apart from the Buffalo herd and a crash of White Rhino.
this enclosed area was home to Sable and Eland as well.

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NOT a vehicle that you want to get stuck behind
 for any length of time.
Our driver, George, was extremely patient.
Especially with those drivers who seemed to be intent
on breaking the rules of the road at every possible occasion.

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The scenery along the N4 towards Hoedspruit is
exceptionally stunning and for once I was glad to be a passenger.

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The trip to Unicorn Camp can be done by air to a nearby airport,
as the drive is about 6-7 hours, depending on stops.
It was great to be able to hop out of the vehicle and stretch our legs.
Although keen to head out immediately to find the lions,
that experience would have to wait for our morning drive

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The accommodation...
As I mentioned earlier, this camp is not designed for guests per se,
but it was more than adequate for our purposes.

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For those staying in the rondavels,
there were shared ablution facilities.
But my bed was comfortable and there was both electricity
as well as Internet connectivity.
The latter being most important for us as a group.

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There are larger units available around the pool area,
and these have their own en suite facilities.
They also boast double beds...

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The reception/lounge area is an eclectic mixture
of furniture and styles that work well in conjunction with each other.
But, overshadowing all of the d├ęcor are photographs and paintings of the White Lions.
With the predominant image being that of the late Mandla,
who was the dominant male in the conservancy.
Saved from becoming a very expensive hunting trophy,
he was relocated here successfully and his lineage will continue
through his sons.
He died of natural causes recently, aged 19.

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An almost full moon as we head to bed.
Each of us wishing that we will be privileged to get even a glimpse
of the pride on our morning drive.

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Morning, and anticipation was running high.
"Would we, could we, if only and if we do see the lions
 would the sighting be a good one"?

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As a result of the ongoing drought, the owners
are supplement feeding some of the plains game.
This is not quite a "lion lying with a lamb" image,
but I have never seen a jackal as relaxed
as those I saw during our game drives.
In fact both the zebra and the jackal seemed to ignore each other.

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Jason Turner is the Lion Ecologist at The White Lion Protection Trust.
He has been doing work here for the past 15 years,
and eventually his research will form part of his Phd thesis.
Using radio telemetry is one way of  being able to locate the pride.
Remembering that this conservancy has been set up to study
the re-introduction of White Lions, the reason for this method
of tracking becomes obvious
Listen to what he has to say:
https://soundcloud.com/david-batzofin/jason-turner

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Even though the lions are wearing collars, sightings are not guaranteed.
In fact it took us the best part of an hour to find these brothers.
How beautiful and majestic are they?
If I was to attempt to Photoshop the perfect lion,
then I would use these as the template.
Matsieng( Great Star Hunter) and Zukhara (Great Spirit of the Sun)
are the direct descendants of Mandla (Power of Starlight)
and Zihra (First Ray of Sunshine).

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White Lions are seen as Spirit Animals and as you watch them
you get an understanding of why the indigenous population believes that.
The same is said of White Bears in the United States who are revered
by the Native American

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Beauty in what was a pond of death.

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Before the land was bought by the GWLPT,
it was a hunting farm.
It was from the hide at the side of this waterhole
that many animals were murdered in the name of sport.
A practice that is no longer and option to those who now live and work here.

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The only animals that are dying currently are those
that are being hunted by the pride.
And from the bones that can be found throughout the property,
it seems that these re-introduced lions are doing that very well.
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To find out more about the Trust and what its objectives are,
visit their website:

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